Non-verbal communication, or body language, includes your facial expressions, hand movements, how you sit, stand, shake hands, and make eye contact. These are all things that you'll do at your job interview, so it's important to send the right message.
Unfortunately, we often become so focused on saying the right things that we don't realize when our body language is conveying something else. Here are some tips for carrying yourself in a way that has a positive effect on the interviewer's perception of you.
- If the interviewer offers a handshake, shake hands firmly but not too strongly. The handshake should last for two to three seconds, while keeping good eye contact and a warm smile. If you tend to have sweaty palms, wipe them with a tissue before the interviewer enters the room. Do not cover the interviewer's hand with your own.
- Try to keep a distance of about three feet from your interviewer when sitting and standing.
- If the interviewer doesn't direct you to a specific seat, choose one across from or next to him or her. Try not to use upholstered chairs and sofas if possible, as these make it difficult to maintain good posture and remain poised while standing up.
- Slide to the back of the chair and sit tall and straight. Do not sit at the edge of the seat, slouch, or hold yourself too stiff. Direct your head and body toward the interviewer. Keep both feet on the floor and try not to cross your legs. Place your hands comfortably in your lap. Do not cross your arms.
- Keep eye contact when speaking or being spoken to. After holding direct eye contact for three to five seconds, shift your gaze to other areas of the interviewer's face, then go back to the eyes. Don't stare blankly or too deeply at the interviewer.
- If any interruption occurs, such as a telephone call or another person entering the room, drop eye contact to show that you respect the interviewer's privacy. Motion that you are willing to step out of the office if he or she wishes. Busy yourself with your notes until the interruption has passed, and be prepared to re-start the conversation by saying something like "To get back to your question about..." in a light-hearted tone. Do not show annoyance about the interruption.
- Keep your facial muscles relaxed and offer a sincere, natural smile when it makes sense to do so. You want to appear friendly and sure of yourself, but a forced grin tends to be obvious and have the opposite effect. Don't frown or wrinkle your brows.
- Pay attention to the interviewer. In addition to making eye contact and smiling as appropriate, express interest in your discussion by nodding your head slowly, leaning forward, and making other positive gestures every so often.
- Speak clearly and calmly. Show your excitement through your voice, but try not to talk too quickly, loudly, or in an unnaturally high pitch.
- Use vocabulary that is proper for the workplace. Do not use slang. Keep all discussion on a professional level.
- Show that you are friendly through regular conversation, your answers to the interviewer's questions, and body language -- not by making jokes.
- Always stop before speaking to gather your thoughts, and to decide the best way to answer the question.
- Try to avoid these bad habits: chewing gum; looking at your watch too often; playing with jewelry, buttons, or other items; shifting in your chair; shaking your leg; running your fingers through your hair; touching or rubbing your face, neck, or head; looking over your eyeglasses; darting your eyes back and forth; quickly nodding your head; chewing on your lip; wringing your hands; clicking your pen; doodling; constant or aggressive gesturing; and general fidgeting.
While it may seem like a lot to remember, these tips will help you connect with the interviewer and form a favorable opinion in his or her mind. In addition, building your non-verbal skills and awareness will improve ALL of your interactions, whether on-the-job, at home, or out in the community.
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